How to Identify the Cow Killer Ant

By Rodney Southern
The Cow Killer Ant
Wikipedia Commons / Public Domain via Federal Government

The cow killer ant or eastern velvet ant is actually a wasp and not an ant. It is always referred to as an ant, however, and moves and looks like an ant as well. This aggressive stinger is called a cow killer because it hurts so bad when you are stung by it. The cow killer ant is capable of causing severe allergic reactions in humans. Being able to recognize this insect is important to your well being.

Know that the cow killer ant is found primarily in the southeastern United States, though it is occasionally found in the north as well. The cow killer is found in woods, as well as grassy areas. They love flowers and can be found around flower beds.

Notice that the cow killer ant is generally 1 inch long. They are actually about the size of most wasps. This makes the cow killer stand out in size if you are comparing it to most ants.

Observe that the cow killer has a hairy appearance up close. Those hairs (setae) can be black, white, orange, red or shades of these colors. These colors make up a distinct pattern on the cow killer.

Know that the cow killer lays eggs inside bees nests so that when the babies emerge, they can eat the other bee larvae.

Watch the cow killer move about extremely quickly. The cow killer ant is lightening fast, and can sting just as quickly.

Realize that the female cow killer is the one that can sting and is wingless. The males have wings and cannot sting.

About the Author

Based in Greensboro, Rodney Southern has been writing and editing sports and nature articles for going on 10 years. His articles have appeared in "Nicean" magazine, "The Sporting News" website and countless other online venues. Southern was the 2008 Ultimate Call for Content National Award Winner. He attended Guilford Tech and was trained as an EMT in the Army.